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Posted on Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 5:57 a.m.

Top floor of the old Herb David Guitar Studio will become repair shop

By Ben Freed


David Collins looks on as Brian Delaney pretends to "shred" while joking around in the shop as Hesh Breakstone works at a computer station. The three are planning to open Ann Arbor Guitars on the top floor of the Herb David Studio after it closes.

Melanie Maxwell |

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Herb David’s Guitar Studio is closing at the end of March, but those who have been tutored by the long-time Ann Arbor guitar maven will continue to repair the guitars, basses, and banjos of Southeast Michigan musicians.

A “stairway to heaven” leads to the third-floor repair shop in the house at the corner of Liberty Street and Fifth Avenue. Instruments and tools are spread out in the converted attic, giving off a cluttered yet organized vibe the three luthiers working in the shop seem perfectly comfortable with.

“A luthier is a maker or repairer of stringed instruments,” David Collins said. “We are a special subset that specializes in stringed instruments that are fretted and plucked.”


David Collins works on a repairing the neck of a guitar in the shop on Thursday, March 14.

Melanie Maxwell |

Collins, Brian Delaney, and Hesh Breakstone are staying in the old repair shop and opening their own business, Ann Arbor Guitars. The group has worked in the shop together for more than two years, and when they heard that the store would be closing, presented a proposal to Herb David and his wife Andrea to continue their operations in the space.

“This is [Herb]’s legacy, and this is what he loves,” Andrea David said.

“He couldn’t be happier that there are people that he likes who are very professional who want to continue the work here.”

Collins said most luthiers in Ann Arbor can trace their training back to someone who was trained by Herb David. He recited the “lineage” of his training that indeed came back to someone who was trained at the studio.

“It’s like a huge pyramid with Herb at the top,” he said.

“He was in this profession before it really existed. When he started there were no books on how to build or repair guitars and certainly there weren’t any YouTube videos. The people who wrote the first books on the subject all approached Herb to ask him questions.”


Hesh Breakstone, Brian Delaney and David Collins pose for a photo in the shop of Herb David Guitar Studio. The three plan to open Ann Arbor Guitars after the studio closes.

Melanie Maxwell |

Ann Arbor Guitars will complete all of the “leftover” work from the Herb David Guitar Studio and then will continue to work on new client’s instruments. Collins said all three luthiers know how to build guitars, but it’s not their main focus.

“Right now it’s about 0 percent of our business,” he said. “But for the right price, we can definitely work something out.”

Recently, Collins has focused on restoration of vintage and damaged guitars. As he read off his inventory, which included a guitar neck cracked by an 18-wheeler and Martin from the 1870s, Andrea David could not help but remark that he “sounded like a young Herb.”

At 82, Herb is no longer an every-day guitar repair man, but still is the expert on a number of rare instruments that come into the shop from time to time.

“He will still be welcome to come in and fix things, or carve different things. He was making a really unique ukulele the other day,” Collins said.

“And if we ever have anyone bring in an oud or a lute, he’s still the best expert available to do the repairs on those.”

Collins has been a luthier for a number of years, and taught at the Bryan Galloup school of lithiery, but he’s joined in this venture by one of his more recent apprentices.


Brian Delaney holds a custom, one-of-a-kind, double neck guitar he designed and built at Herb David Guitar Studios.

Melanie Maxwell |

“I was actually a manager at General Electric. I was promoted to vice president, and I quit the same day,” Breakstone said.

“So I decided I needed something to do with my time so I started to teach myself how to build guitars. Eventually I was told that I had to learn the repair side as well and that was how I ended up apprenticing for Dave [Collins]. So I was in technology and now I’m doing old-world workmanship. It’s come full-circle for me.”

Andrea David said she and Herb have not decided what will become of the bottom two floors of the house.

“It was designed as a music space, so we’d love to see it be something music-related, but we haven’t settled on anything,” she said. “We don’t want to be come a restaurant though.”

Another major component of Herb David’s studio are the music lessons that span a vast range of instruments and abilities. Ann Arbor Music Center owner Alex Johnson said he took his first guitar lessons at Herb David’s studios and taught at the store for four years in the mid-1990s.

The center, located a few blocks away on Ashley Street, opened in 2001. With a staff of 25 instructors, the center will be growing April 1 when some of the instructors from Herb David will transfer to the music center after the studio closes.

“Herb was certainly an icon in the Ann Arbor community and the town won’t be the same without him,” Johnson said in an email.

“We just want people to know that there is still a place that’s thriving here and is a part of the music community.”

Ben Freed covers business for You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Reach out to Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2


Mark Clevey

Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 5:11 p.m.

I have a 20 plus year old Martin that needed some repair work. I contacted Martin Guitar and asked for a referral to the "best" person to work on my guitar in the Great Lakes region. Without hesitation, then recommended David Collins. David did excellent work on my guitar. He is an asset to our economy, community and local music culture. I'm pleased that he will continue to ply his craft here.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 6:22 p.m.

GREAT NEWS!! Happy to hear the 3 will remain together and patch up our old guitars. I hope folks realize what a "treasure" we have here in A2 with this team. As for amps, better call- its 3 flights of stairs! Congrats Ann Arbor Guitars and hoping the best for you in this venture.

Anonymous Commentor

Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 6:28 p.m.

This is great news! Anyone know if they'll work on amps as well as instruments?


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 3:19 p.m.

This is, indeed, great news. Now I won't have to make the trek to Elderly in Lansing, as I had first feared when I heard the sad news about the store. I don't trust my guitars to anyone else.


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 3:14 p.m.

I will certainly miss the vibe of Herb's studio; picking up Ark tix, and having time slip away so quickly just looking around the place. But I am so happy the repair biz will stay. Hesh has repaired several of my instruments and I have always been thrilled with his work. Best orf luck to Ann Arbor Guitars!


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 3:10 p.m.

Good for them!


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 1:51 p.m.

"As he read off his inventory, which included a guitar neck cracked by an 18-wheeler and martin from the 1870s, Andrea David could not help but remark that he "sounded like a young Herb."" I think that should read "...*a* *M*artin from the 1870's..." CF Martin & Co. is a famous guitar-making company.

Ben Freed

Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 2:06 p.m.

You're absolutely right, it's been fixed. Thanks for the catch. Ben

Ryan J. Stanton

Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 12:14 p.m.

Glad to know some of the spirit of this place will remain.

Jim Mulchay

Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 11:37 a.m.

Wouldn't be nice to have musicians (guitars, maybe a mariachi band) in a park next to the library in the summer and fall? That probably wouldn't fly - better to have them in a lobby of a hotel?


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 11:08 a.m.

It is ventures like this that make Ann Arbor such an absolutely cool place to live! Best of luck and I hope you have great success - you deserve it!